Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Criticism of an occupied and subjugated people

This paragraph, in Amira Hass' recent column in Haaretz, has been challenging me:
In the binary thinking of those who oppose the Israeli occupation (Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners), public criticism of the tactics used in the struggle of an occupied and dispossessed people is taboo. It is as if criticism would create symmetry between the attacker and the attacked. To a large extent, this taboo has been broken with regard to the Palestinian Authority: Many opponents of the occupation have no qualms about portraying the PA as a collaborator, or at least as the captive of its senior officials' private interests. But when it comes to Hamas' use of arms, silence falls. As if there were sanctity in the Qassam soaring high into the sky, only to fall amid the clamor of Israeli propaganda.
For sometime, I have held that an oppressed people's chosen form of resistance shouldn't be criticized by the (latent or active) oppressors. We should use our words criticizing the unjust sytems, policies, and players who create desperation that pushes people to respond with any means at their disposal. I still believe that. Let's not waste our words preaching to the oppressed, but let's use our words to undermine the powers that be. 

Nonetheless, Hass' article is making me think. Shooting rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians isn't morally defensible nor is it a step towards a just peace. Israel's actions, or justification for their actions, are rarely (if never) defensible. But that doesn't help me figure out how to participate, as a privileged American whose government provides and arms Israeli warplanes, in a discussion about Hamas militants' response to Israel's illegal and cruel siege of Gaza.

Maybe I just keep critiquing the American government and lamenting my and my government's role in the ongoing imprisonment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Maybe I try to explain why Hamas militants would launch rockets at Israel by describing the desperation inflicted on Palestinians that I have seen. Maybe I explain that launching Qassam rockets at Israel is strategically stupid (and it contributes to the cycle of violence and hatred) and will result in the death of innocents in Gaza.

I'm thankful for a brain that has the ability to think, analyze, shift, and transform -- even though sometimes, it feels like a curse.


Anonymous said...

You seem to be a person of good intention but what is reality to you is just not reality. Think long and hard about your below statement: it's seriously flawed! Hopefully it helps..

"Israel's actions, or justification for their actions, are rarely (if never) defensible."

Samuel Nichols said...

I thought long and hard and I'd still stand behind that statement. The last three years I spent living in the West Bank demonstrated to me on a daily basis the brutality of Israel's occupation of West Bank and siege of Gaza. Israel seems to be eternally under the impression that cinching the noose tighter and tighter in order to stop armed (or even nonviolent) resistance will somehow force the Palestinians into acceptance of their reality provided by Israel.

The great majority of Israel's actions in the West Bank, in Gaza, in Lebanon, and even within Israel are not morally defensible, nor defensible within the arena of international law.

p.s. I am so tired of anonymous comments, at least go to the Name/URL option and enter a name.

Anonymous said...

I love this post.

And anonymous comments are lame-o.

Anonymously yours,

David Hosey

Samuel Nichols said...

Thanks David.